QUEENSRŸCHE Vs. QUEENSRŸCHE – A Cold Redemption?
By David Perri
It gets to the point where it makes you laugh, but not in the good,
life-extending way: almost 30 years after Queensrÿche’s classic and
influential self-titled debut, the band is now in the same absurd
situation as the much-maligned L.A. GUNS once was, what with two
different line-ups laying claim to the same, worse-for-the-wear brand.
It’s an embarrassing and unprofessional situation for all involved, and
it’s one that probably stems from interpersonal band issues that we’ll
never know the exact, proper sequence or comings and goings of (remember
the title of that EXTREME
album, Three Sides To Every Story?).
And so we now have a Queensrÿche featuring founding members Michael
Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson along with Parker Lundgren
and new vocalist Todd La Torre
(ex-CRIMSON GLORY), and a rag-tag
Queensrÿche with original vocalist Geoff Tate, ex-Queensrÿche guitarist
Kelly Gray, journeymen Rudy Sarzo, Robert Sarzo and Randy Gane as well
as former AC/DC
(!) drummer Simon Wright. Much like Mike Portnoy
absurdly leaving DREAM THEATER
for the hotter, younger chick that
summarily dumped him once he was too available (hi there, AVENGED
SEVENFOLD), the mid-life crisis the original members of Queensrÿche are
collectively going through just seems unnecessary and something that
will be regretted as soon as the reunion happens sometime in, like, 2016
or so (maybe Queensrÿche and a reunited Dream Theater can
co-headline?). But, like so many situations in the perpetual grey zone
that is life, there is an ‘unless’ here...
Unless one or both of these two Queensrÿches writes a killer album.
Which, (very) surprisingly, might actually end up being the case.
Let’s start with the more high-profile of the Queensrÿches, the
Wilton/Rockenfield/Jackson version. The band is signed to worldwide
powerhouse Century Media and the first single from its upcoming record,
, begins in classic Queensrÿche form, the dual leads
reminiscent, in spirit, of ‘Warning’ or ‘Queen Of The Ryche’. Though it
would be impossible for the band to recreate the debut EP, The Warning
or Rage For Order, this version of Queensrÿche
has channeled the
elements that made those records classics while remaining wholly in the
modern era, a feat that rarely works but shows flashes of promise here.
Aside from ‘Redemption’’s enthralling intro, the solo at 2:36 to 2:52 is
also notable in its ability to bring you back, exactly, to how you once
felt in those initial years of exploring metal and all its trappings,
headphones permanently locked on the ears and turntable/CD player
tapping the vein with full force. Though ‘Redemption’’s chorus does
disappoint as a result of its typical Magna Carta/InsideOut-isms, the
song, both generally and specifically, is exactly where classic
Queensrÿche should be 30 years into a career: strong foundations in its
prog-inflected IRON MAIDEN
beginnings while also having expanded to
match life’s call for adaptability and change. And, man, can Todd La
Torre sing. Geoff Tate fans need not worry. At all.
On the other side, Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche
debuts with ‘Cold’
upcoming record Frequency Unknown on Cleopatra Records, the label once
known primarily for its tribute albums. Like his former compatriots,
Tate has chosen to start off this new era on a heavier front, ‘Cold’
beginning with a slowed down IN FLAMES riff that then continues the dual
leads over a surprisingly effective atmospheric keyboard progression.
‘Cold’’s chorus comes fast and, truth be told, it’s better than
s, as ‘Cold’’
s is a more introspective, subdued one that is
confident and streamlined, without all the negative connotations of
that word. ‘Cold’ also nods to Queensrÿche’s earliest moments with its
slicing, retro and tasteful solo, one that is reminiscent of all of
Queensrÿche’s better yesterdays. That said, ‘Cold’ is a disappointing
first foray for this version of Queensrÿche: if first impressions are
being formed by those who still care, they’re going to side with
Wilton/Rockenfield/Jackson, if only because that version of the band is
making amends by self-awarely re-making the Queensrÿche brand into what
it should be. ‘Cold’, instead, feels like a second single from a group
that is heavy only sometimes, and when it’s convenient.
And that, when all the dusts of not-so-silent lucidity have cleared
in this fiasco, is what’s at stake here: brand loyalty. The members of
Queensrÿche have already been to a Seattle court to duke out who owns
the trademark and the Judge in the case ruled that both versions of
can use the moniker until the November 18, 2013 court date.
Trademark law is heavily influenced by the idea of confusion; you’re not
allowed to call your company MacDonaldz and use yellow golden arches
because it will cause confusion in the minds of customers. Right now,
confusion reigns supreme in the Queensrÿche
camp, and whoever eventually
loses will probably have to change their band name entirely to avoid
competing and confusing claims in the marketplace. Until then, the Judge
in this case has decided that both parties can use the Queensrÿche
brand and has said that, for now, “the market can get these things
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time the market has sorted things
out for Queensrÿche.
The band has been persona non grata since the
wildly underrated Promised Land and, for the most part, it's been
deserved as Queensrÿche has underachieved over the last two decades
(that includes the much hyped Operation: Mindcrime II
remains a painfully naive idea that only confirms the group’s lack of
relevance). But, if the market is to decide the fate of the two
Queensrÿches, then first impressions are important. And first
impressions are indeed being formed here. First impression that will
lead to fan loyalty and dollars and cents. There’s a lot at stake.
Which probably explains why both Queensrÿches have come out of the
gates with relatively heavy tracks instead of the contemporary radio
rock of American Soldier or Dedicated to Chaos that no one, other than
the band, favored or was excited about. So now that the laurels that
have been rested upon for too long have unceremoniously been taken out
from under Queensrÿche, motivation and incentive are no longer at a
premium and are, once again, taking their place in the Queensrÿche
environs. Which, ultimately, will only benefit the listener: if both
Wilton/Rockenfield/Jackson and Tate are looking to solidify your loyalty
with old-school records, then you're finally getting what you've hoped
for all these years. Maybe breakups and divorces, for all their various
dramas and pain sequences, lead to better paths indeed?
Who else is wondering what Chris DeGarmo is thinking?'Redemption'
can be heard in the clips below: Queensrÿche - Redemption (New Song!)